FEU's Mike Tolomia (13) attempts a lay-up against the defense of UST's Kevin Ferrer (7) in their UAAP Season 76 men's basketball game Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 3) The Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws used a strong fourth quarter charge to clip the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers, 77-67, and remain unbeaten in the UAAP Season 76 men’s basketball tournament.
In front of nearly 15,000 fans at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday, FEU’s guards – Terrence Romeo, RR Garcia and Mike Tolomia – combined for 48 points as the Tamaraws moved to within a win of a first-round sweep.
But FEU Coach Nash Racela sought to downplay their record, saying: “With 6-0, it’s the same feeling as 1-0. It’s something that I learned as a coach – 6-0 cannot guarantee you anything. Those are just numbers.”
The Tamaraws broke the game open in the final period after going neck-and-neck with the Tigers for most of the game.
After ending the third canto leading only by six, 62-56, the Tamaraws opened the final frame with a 6-2 run – sparked by Garcia and Romeo – that gave them a double-digit lead, 68-58.
After a Clark Bautista triple gave the Tigers some hope, 68-61, Garcia and Tolomia took advantage of UST’s turnovers as they combined to score six straight points, giving the Tams their biggest lead of the game, 74-61, with 4:36 left.
The Tigers were never able to recover, and their misery was exemplified in a painful sequence for UST that saw both Karim Abdul and Aljon Mariano flub close-range attempts.
“I think we were fortunate because towards the end, napagod na si Abdul,” said Racela.
Racela said the biggest concern now for the Tamaraws was consistently playing at a high level.
“I think (our teamwork) is getting better. It’s a work in progress… The biggest question is consistency and sustainability, that’s always the biggest question,” he said.
The Tigers, who were playing without injured guard Jeric Teng, dropped to 3-2 this season.
Abdul scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Kevin Ferrer finished with 18 points, seven boards and three assists.
But the Tigers clearly missed Teng’s shot-making, especially in the fourth quarter where they struggled to manufacture points and committed several turnovers. UST had only two field goals in the final quarter.
The Tigers were able to keep in step with the Tamaraws in the opening period, even taking a 21-18 first-quarter lead thanks to Abdul and Bautista.
The second period was a nip-and-tuck affair as the Tigers seized a 27-23 lead off a lay-up by Ed Daquioag, only to see the Tamaraws score six straight points to seize the lead.
The two squads traded baskets for the rest of the period, but FEU took control anew with a 7-0 run late in the quarter, capped by a long jumper by Garcia.
Romeo, who scored only seven points in the first half, exploded for 10 points in the third quarter to help FEU gain some separation.
Romeo was also assessed an unsportsmanlike foul midway through the third period after tripping Daquioag, but his miscue was negated when Daquioag was given a technical foul for repeatedly clapping his hands in front of Romeo’s face.